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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lake Titicaca - Puno, Peru - Floating Manmade Reed Uru Islands


Lake Titicaca is a large, deep lake in the Andes on the border of Bolivia and Peru, often called the "highest navigable lake" in the world. It sits at an elevation of 12,500 feet.  On the lake, various native Peruvians thrive on their own island - some made made naturally from the earth and other islands are made made reed islands.

Other cultures lived on Lake Titicaca prior to the arrival of the Incas. In 2000, a team of international archaeologists found the ruins of an underwater temple, thought to be between 1,000 and 1,500 years old, perhaps built by the Tiwanaku people.




Also in Lake Titicaca of Peru, another group lives on their man made reed islands.  The Uru or Uros are an indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia. They live on an approximate and still growing 120 self-fashioned floating islands in Lake Titicaca near Puno. They form three main groups: the Uru-Chipaya, Uru-Murato, and Uru-Iruito. 

The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive; if a threat arose the floating islands could be moved. The largest island retains a watchtower almost entirely constructed of reeds.




According to Wikipedia:  

The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what makes it exciting for tourists when walking on the island.[2] This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster. The islands last about thirty years.
Each step on an island sinks about 2-4" depending on the density of the ground underfoot. As the reeds dry, they break up more and more as they are walked upon. As the reed breaks up and moisture gets to it, it rots, and a new layer has to be added to it. It is a lot of work to maintain the islands. Because the people living there receive so many tourists now, they have less time to maintain everything, so they have to work even harder in order to keep up with the tourists and with the maintenance of their island.Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle.




We are an alpaca farm with 150 quirky alpacas, 10 enthusiastic employees and thousands of amazing alpaca products. After 15 years of experience, we offer hand crafted alpaca products from local knitters, crocheters and weavers - including hats, scarves, blankets as well as high-tech alpaca socks and fabrics. We also sell composted alpaca manure as a rich fertilizer. Alpacas of Montana is a fully vertically integrated alpaca farm and we love designing high quality alpaca products.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Alpaca Body Language and Vocalizations


As with every being, alpacas have their own language. Some communication is easier to read than others and this is not exhaustive by any means, but here are the basics:


Even though her ears are back, she is relaxed and looking around, not angry or threatened


Ears back:  While this can mean an alpaca is frightened or angry, most of the time they are in a relaxed and listening.  Unlike a horse or dog that many of us are familiar with indicating you should back away from the animal, more often than not the alpaca is just                                                       repositioning its ears to hear. They are a preyed upon animal, so they always want to be aware no one is "sneaking up" on them.


Spitting:  The most popular association when people hear the word alpaca is spitting.  Just like every dog can bite, every alpaca can spit. However, if they are well socialized to people and their surroundings, chances are you will not be directly spit at by an alpaca.  I have a good record so far of 15 years and still have not been targeted.  However, people can be spit at when feeding pellets or treats.  Often the unwitting are caught in the crossfire of one or two alpacas trying to push off the others for food.  

There are two types of spit:  A head pointed up or out and air spitting as a warning.  The other is a green bile / grass/ hay loogie which is the follow-through often after a warning. Steer clear of both.

With the green spitting, this leads to the "bubba lip" of an alpaca - a highly unattractive 15-20 minutes of the alpaca's life while recovering from spitting and/ or fighting.  The bile tastes horrible in their mouth and they may try to nibble hay or grass to clean the pallet, but to no avail.  They just have to wait it out until the nasty taste is gone.  
A new cria nursing from its mother


This younger alpaca has its tail up in submission
Tail in the air:  This can mean different things.  1. If an adult male is doing this, he is often puffing himself up to other males or wooing the ladies to make him look bigger (See photo below).  2. A baby drinking its mother milk helps with bonding and indicates it is nursing.  Mothers with young cria will often nuzzle / lick the baby's bottom to stimulate the urge to drink.  3. If a younger animal approaches older males / llamas / adults, the tail may flip up.  This is submissive, communicating it is young / not a threat and a request not to be hurt. 


Cowboy with his tail up making himself look larger
Spit lips and showing the teeth:  Too often, the funny pictures of alpacas with buck teeth mean the owner has not taken care of this alpaca.  Alpaca teeth continuously grow and if they are not lined up with the pallet, they will jut out.  (See alpaca teeth article ) This can be remedied / corrected by trimming the teeth to line back up with the pallet over time. However, if you see teeth that are proper but showing, they are smelling you with their olfactories. Olfaction has many purposes, such as the detection of hazards, pheromones, and food. It integrates with other senses to form the sense of flavor.  They are sizing up who you are and what you have.

Fran splits her upper lift to smell what I have in my hand
Warning Whistle:  Alpacas make a high pitched sound if they are scared and/ or preceive danger.  This alerts the rest of the herd, including llamas, guard dogs and anyone else around that something is not right.  If there is significant danger (we had an elk herd come through our property one morning that incited this action) the alpacas bunch into a circle with the babies in the middle, llamas form a line between the alpacas and threat and the livestock guard dogs are in front as the first line of defensive.  This could be from a mountain or elk walking by to a neighbor dog or skunk.  If they do not like it, they will let out the warning call.  Even a ground squirrel giving the stink eye could evoke a warning call.

Humming:  Another more common sound is a hum.  They will hum in the barn, in pens, in the pasture when they are calm and slightly more when they are annoyed / distressed.  This recording is from 5 ladies we put in a next door pen to give medicine and they were waiting at the gate to be let back into the main pasture - slightly annoyed but not distressed.

A new mother will hum and click constantly to its baby for the first week or two of its life.  This lets the baby recognize its mother's voice in a sea of hundreds of alpaca legs in the pasture.

Clicking:  I hear this most often when our boys are on opposites of the fence - friends or foe - posturing to each other.  Or, someone is standing proudly on a manure / hay / snow pile showing off to the other lowly alpacas / llamas.  This usually evokes a game of king of the hill which is always fun to watch.

Pregnancy testing: To test if a female is pregnant, we bring a male back in with a female 4+ days after she has been bred.  If she is pregnant, she often spits and tries to get away.  If she is unsure or not pregnant and willing to breed, they often start sucking their teeth, have a quick blink of their eyes which become glazed over, and then sit down.  This means she is willing to breed and receptive hormonally to the male.  

More humming:  When alpacas are breeding, the male hums a song to the female.  Each has its own song.  This is essentially a longer, more enthusiastic version of the hum and some are quite creative in their vocals.

This covers the basics of what you might see on a walk or two through a herd of alpacas.  



We are an alpaca farm with 150 quirky alpacas, 10 enthusiastic employees and thousands of amazing alpaca products. After 15 years of experience, we offer hand crafted alpaca products from local knitters, crocheters and weavers - including hats, scarves, blankets as well as high-tech alpaca socks and fabrics. We also sell composted alpaca manure as a rich fertilizer. Alpacas of Montana is a fully vertically integrated alpaca farm and we love designing high quality alpaca products.